President Barack Obama rolled through Ohio Thursday during a two-day bus tour where he promised voters that he'll create jobs for millions of unemployed Americans if he's re-elected to the White House.
The president's bus tour to Ohio and Pennsylvania comes at a critical time in the campaign: several polls show Obama leading GOP rival Mitt Romney in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but overall, Obama and Romney are locked in a dead heat, according to a CNN poll, with Obama holding a slight edge, 49-46.
But it's the swing states where both campaigns are waging an all-out war – and its swing states like North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — that could decide the election, which is now only four months away.
“I still believe in you,” Obama told supporters in Maumee, Ohio Thursday. “I’m betting on you. And the country is betting on you, Ohio. Because you understand that, even though politics may seem real small right now and may seem real petty, the choice in this election could not be clearer. And it could not be bigger — the stakes could not be bigger.”
“Our goal isn’t just to put people back to work tomorrow; it’s also to build for the long haul an economy where hard work pays off — an economy where everybody, whether you're starting a business or punching a clock, has confidence that if you work hard, you will get ahead,” Obama said. “That's what America is about. That's what Ohio is about.”
Some black Democrats say privately that they are cautiously optimistic but remain deeply concerned about Obama's chances for re-election, arguing that Republicans are mounting such a negative campaign against Obama that many undecided voters may choose to support Romney in November.
But Democratic consultants insist that Obama's strategy of highlighting Romney's pattern of intentionally shutting down businesses – such as Bain Capital — and putting thousands of employees out of work is proving effective for Obama and that he should keep pounding away on Romney's association with Bain every chance he gets.
And while Obama courts rural voters, young voters, and independent voters, the president should also make a point of visiting as many black neighborhoods as possible during his campaign swings to energize the black electorate and encourage an unprecedented turnout on Election Day.
Pollsters are predicting that the Nov. 6 election could be one of the closest presidential elections in history and black voters will need to duplicate the euphoria from the historic 2008 election to help return Obama to the White House. But Obama must also give black voters a reason to turn out and visiting black communities during campaign swings – and sending black surrogates to black communities – will perhaps resonate with black voters.
In the meantime, while Obama takes his message to battleground states in the U.S., Romney is preparing to travel to Israel this summer to meet with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. In Israel, Romney plans to portray himself as a true ally of Israel – and paint Obama as a misguided Palestinian sympathizer.
"He's a strong friend of Israel and we'll be happy to meet with him," Ron Dermer, Netanyahu's senior adviser, told The New York Times about Romney.
Romney is trying to court Jewish voters in the U.S. and capitalize on the strained relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. Romney's timing in traveling to Israel is no coincidence as some polls show that Jewish support for Obama is slightly eroding.
It is unlikely that Obama will visit Israel this year as it's rare for presidential candidates to travel overseas in the thick of a campaign.
So for now, Obama will continue to do what he does best: Tout his vision for the nation's economic recovery and blast Romney's penchant for outsourcing America's jobs overseas.
“I’m not a Democrat first; I’m an American first,” Obama said in Ohio. “I believe we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. And I believe what’s stopping us is not our capacity to meet our challenges; what’s stopping us is our politics. And that’s something you have the power to solve.”
“So hit the doors,” Obama said before heading to Pittsburgh on Friday. “Make some phone calls. Register your friends. Talk to those family members who sometimes don’t vote. Remind them where America’s strength comes from — it comes from our people. Remind them how America came this far — it came because of our people.”